Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump to address reporters in Helsinki

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"We have been extremely tough on Russian Federation", he said at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

At least three top Democrats expressed concern over President Trump's planned meeting in Finland with Russian leader Vladimir Putin scheduled for early next week. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, asked whether Trump should meet one-on-one with Putin, responded by saying that "we know Russian Federation meddled in our elections and we're glad these hackers are being held to account".

He even threatened to pull the United States out of the Western alliance in what Merkel described as "intense" talks.

"I will absolutely, firmly ask the question" about interference in the USA election, Trump said at a news conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers, her country estate.

But for Russian politicians who erupted in applause on learning that Trump won the USA election in hopes of rapprochement only to see ties worsen, Helsinki offers a precious opportunity for a possible thaw in relations. "I will absolutely firmly ask the question". "I don't think you'll have any, 'Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me.' There won't be a Perry Mason here I don't think", he continued.

"I will absolutely, firmly ask the question" about interference in the US election, Trump said at a news conference on Friday with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers, her country estate.

"GRU officers who knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and known to the Grand Jury (collectively the "Conspirators"), to gain unauthorized access (to "hack") into the computers of USA persons and entities involved in the 2016 US presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 USA presidential election", says the Justice Department.

Contrary to what Trump's supporters will say, the Mueller investigation is clearly not ending any time soon, nor should it.

Trump said he did not criticize May during the interview and said the British tabloid did not include all the good things he said about her.

"If you can imagine what reduced tension could do in the case of US-Russia and Europe-Russia, it would be on a much bigger scale", the US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, told reporters on a call previewing the meeting last week. But lawmakers worry Trump will fail to take Putin to task, particularly over the election meddling, which the Russian leader has denied.

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Trump said Friday that he'll bring up the election interference he speaks with Putin, but that he doesn't expect an answer.

But even before Air Force One completed its 50-minute flight across the English Channel to the next stop on his European tour, Trump's claims of accomplishment were challenged by the same allies he claimed had caved.

For Putin, it is a win just to meet one-on-one with Trump, whose campaign is under investigation over whether Trump associates colluded with the Kremlin to help get Trump elected.

Despite Russia's semi-pariah status among some Americans and U.S. allies, the Kremlin has always been trying to arrange a summit, betting that Putin and Trump will get on well and stop a sharp downwards spiral in bilateral ties.

Dmitry Kiselyov, presenter of Russia's main weekly TV news show "Vesti Nedeli", said Moscow had seen how Trump had received other leaders on home soil, showing footage of Trump holding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hand in a vice-like grip, brushing dandruff off French President Emmanuel Macron's shoulder and glowering next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

I dont "believe" Putin interfered in our elections I know for a fact he did. Perhaps at the summit in Helsinki, he will further thank Putin for swinging the American election his way.

"The US intelligence community knows that the Russian government attacked the US", he said in a statement.

"This was an Obama disaster", Trump said.

During Friday's news conference with May, Trump dismissed critics of the meeting, characterizing it as deliberations that led to positive results, including every member vowing to allocate more money for defense. Trump said Khan has done a "very bad job on crime" and a "very bad job on terrorism".

'I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relations with Russia, ' Trump said.